Monday, April 29

Need Another Weekend...



It's sad. I need another weekend to relax from my stressful weekend.  Normally going to Granny and Pawpaw's is relaxing, but the puppy missed his daddy (DH had to stay in Roanoke and work), so he was a bit of a terror. The drive there and back was a nightmare. We were having a few weird weather fronts moving in, and I think the poor puppy's ears were popping (I know mine were). He didn't deal with that well. And at night, he whined at my bedroom door CONSTANTLY.

Needless to say, I just want to go back to bed this morning. Unfortunately, I have lots to do. Laundry, writing, emails to respond to, phone calls to make, annnnnd the elliptical arrived while I was away, so I should probably try that out today too. *cue groaning* Is it too much to ask that I be refreshed and ready to tackle the new week?

How was your weekend?

Friday, April 26

New Adult

This post has been bouncing around in my head for a while now, so I figure I should probably let it out at some point.

As you know, I've become addicted to the New Adult (NA) genre. Just look at the books I've read so far this year. Eleven out of the twenty-two books are NA (although I would also classify two of the Young Adult books as more NA in flavor, but I followed B&N's classification). And those are just the books I've finished. I have tried thirteen other NA books that didn't hold my attention, and therefore did not make the list.

So what's the appeal?

Well, I've always loved YA books. I enjoy getting to see teens figure their shit out. And I love the transitional period from childhood to semi-adulthood. And while the angst gets annoying at times, I love the first kiss, the first love, the first heartbreak, the first everything! However, I've always gravitated to the darker books. The sexier books, if you will. Hey, I'm a romance writer! It might be the French and the Irish in me, but I don't see the point in hiding sex or pretending it doesn't exist. It happens. Get over it.  Which is why I adore YA authors like Jennifer Echols and Simone Elkeles. They don't run from it, they embrace it. Unfortunately, they are still human and they can't write a book a day, much to my dismay.

When NA made it's debut at the end of 2012, I knew I had to try it. University was a huge turning point for me, so I knew I would love books written in that age group. Needless to say, my first guess was correct. I was hooked. If I thought YA was good, it's nothing compared to NA. Since it's an older group, the darker issues are addressed more openly. There is sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, suicide, and sadly, rape. Overall, I find NA books to be more honest. The genre is able to deal with broader, more difficult issues.

Now, there are some cons to the NA genre. Just look at my stats. Eleven (thirteen, really) NA books, plus another thirteen that I tried and couldn't finish. Those aren't great odds. So why have I struggled with some of the books? The main reason is, the majority of the books I've tried were self-published. However, before you all freak out, I have nothing against self-published authors. In fact, with the NA genre, I'm adoring them. 

But just because your book is NA does not mean it's good! People are so desperate for the genre that they will read anything. As for me, I still require basic spelling and grammar, and a hint that you actually edited the work. That sounds harsh, but some of the books I downloaded were so full of errors that I immediately returned for a refund. When I download a book to my Kindle, I expect quality. I expect the book to be in top form, regardless of whether it was self-published or published traditionally.

Still, there are some gems amongst the rocks. My top three NA books so far are:


Easy by Tammara Webber

This book is my all-time favorite at the moment. I loved the hero, I loved the heroine, and I loved the plot. And the writing--swoon! Plus, it deals with the issue of rape on university campuses. I think this is a powerful message that needs to be discussed by everyone. I don't care your gender--we need to stick up for each other!!



Wait For You by Jennifer L. Armentrout writing as J. Lynn

This is another book that deals with a very tough issue, but I won't get into it (don't want to ruin the book!) For once, the heroine is the one with the issues. The hero is sweet, funny, and loveable as he tries to win her over. He is a "bad boy" but not in the traditional, brooding sense. Trust me, you will LOVE this book. Even the secondary characters were amazing. I can't wait for book two.


The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

Okay, let's be honest. The title is dreadful. I almost didn't try it based off of that, but the cover is so gorgeous! In the end, I'm glad I gave it a shot. This book is amazing. Yet another plot that deals with very difficult issues. This one, however, is mutual between the hero and heroine. Both are very broken individuals, but together they work. I loved it, and I can't believe I have to wait for book two!

So there you have it! My thoughts on the new genre. 

Have you guys tried the NA genre? Any favorite books you'd like to add?

Wednesday, April 24

Update: Week Sixteen!

Hello everyone! Time for my weekly update!

Writing:

--First and foremost, I have a new critique partner! Jena Lang and I have been good friends for years and years, so I'm very excited to become CPs! She's a Celtic Hearts sister of mine (she's the one who encouraged me to join in the first place), and she also writes Medieval Romance! I loved her critique of my first chapter, and I adored reading and critiquing hers =) For links to her blogs and Facebook etc... you can check out the "Links" bubble at the top of this page.

--As I mentioned above, I received my critique back. I really liked her suggestions, so I sat down and made the changes. I thought it was going to take forever, but it only took me a couple of hours on Thursday evening and Friday morning to fix everything. I sent it to my Alpha, who read it over the weekend and LOVED it. She didn't think it could get any better, but now she thinks it's fantastic *Squee*  After that, I sent it back to Jen to see if the changes were what she had in mind. I should hear sometime this week =)

--While I'm waiting to hear back on my rewrite of CH 1, I've finally started working on CH 7. I only have notes on how I want the chapter to go, so I actually get to write this rather than edit it (which is what it feels like I've been doing for the past month or two). I really like what I have so far, so hopefully that keeps up =)

--I formatted more manuscripts for the Golden Claddagh contest and filled out all of the necessary paperwork.

--I bought a wrist brace for my right hand. It's been killing me recently, and I have no doubts that it's carpal tunnel. After my two arm surgeries, my doctor said I had carpal tunnel caused by the strain in my elbows, but that it wasn't bad enough to have surgery yet. Well, it's several years later, and it's bad. I'm being stubborn about going to the doctor, but I know I'll go eventually.

Personal:

--The husband and I brought Powell for tons of walks, which was nice. The puppy is so good on a leash, but he does pull every so often, so I can't take him by myself yet. My arms are just too bad. But soon, I hope =)

--We filed my Canadian taxes over the weekend (they're due at the end of this month). Technically I didn't have to file because I didn't make any money and because I filed jointly with my husband here in the USA, but we decided to play it safe and mail them in anyway. Since I made zero dollars, it wasn't difficult to fill out the forms.

--We ordered an elliptical! It doesn't arrive until next week, but I can't wait to start using it =)

Well, that's all I can think of right now! How has your week been? Do anything fun or exciting? Did you guys get your taxes in on time? *tsks* Heheheh.

Monday, April 22

Ugh, Monday...



I think the title of this post sums up how I feel this morning. Honestly, it doesn't feel like it should be Monday. The husband had to work on Saturday, and then yesterday was spent being extremely lazy. It just feels like today should be Sunday. I want my weekend back!

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a rough night last night. My arms were killing me, so I tossed and turned until nearly 4 am before I finally conked out. I was up by 8 am, cursing my new inability to sleep late. I blame getting older. I used to be able to sleep until noon, but no longer. I miss those days.

That's really all I've got this morning. How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting? Do you have any big plans for this week?

Friday, April 19

New Blog Look

Hello everyone!

As you might have noticed, I've been playing around with my blog over the past few days. I apologize if you were here while I was still working--it wasn't pretty at times ;) But now I've settled on this background and I love it. I especially love the calming blue script and my blog header.

I've also changed a few of the pages on here, as well as some of the apps. These will continue to be updated over the next few weeks as I figure out what works and what doesn't. I'll also be updating my "About Me" page as well as my "WIPS" page, but those will both take a bit longer before they're finished.

I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!

What do you guys think of the new look? I really wanted something emerald green (my favorite color), but I couldn't find anything that worked.

Wednesday, April 17

Update: Week 15

Hello everyone!

I hope your week has been good so far...And if it hasn't, it's almost the weekend! Yay! ;)

Writing:

--I finished not one, but two chapters this week =) I am very happy. I sent them to my Alpha last night, so hopefully I'll find out what she thought sometime today. I lost a lot of words with my rewrites, but I think the chapters are stronger now, which is what matters in the long run.

--I've read three books over the past two weeks, bringing my total up to twenty-two.

--I've been entering and doing my coordinator stuff for the Golden Claddagh contest hosted by my Celtic Hearts RWA Chapter. I haven't received many entries yet, so if you write YA and you have a completed manuscript, check out our guidelines! You don't need to write Celtic to enter!

--I don't want to say much about this right now, but I am taking part in a "trial run" with one of my good writer friends to see if we'd be compatible as critique partners. If it goes well, I can announce who it is next week! =)

Personal:

--On Wednesday I went to Charlotte, North Carolina with the husband to finish up our taxes. Since I arrived in the USA on a Fiance Visa and am still waiting to receive my Green Card, taxes this year were especially painful. We want to do our civil duty, but they keep placing roadblocks in our way! Grrr! Anyway, it is now settled and we've filed our federal taxes. Unfortunately, we have to wait for our state taxes until after our federal tax is returned (complicated nonsense). Luckily for us, we have an automatic six month extension for our state taxes because we're receiving a refund. Phew.

--We brought the puppy to North Carolina with us to see how he'd do in the car for that long. Since we're going to the beach this summer, we wanted to try and prepare him now while he's still young. From Roanoke to Charlotte and back was about seven hours total, and Powell did wonderfully! The beach will be six hours there and six back, but there'll be a week in between, so that's good. 

--I'm going to knock on wood while I say this, but we seem to have hit the summer season here in Virginia. It has been ridiculously hot for the past week and a half. Our AC is already on, and we've already pulled out our summer clothes. We've had a few "off" days where it's in the low 70s (low 20s for Canadians), but that's still very nice.

--Last night we brought the puppy for a walk in a park near our townhouse. It has a lovely creek that runs through it, so we brought Powell down to the water to see what he'd do. He has very short hair, so he's freezing in the winter, but he's also black, so he gets really hot in the sun. We were hoping he was a water dog... and it looks like we were right! He marched right on in without hesitation and splashed around a bit. He got a little nervous the deeper he got, but I walked in there with him and he was fine. Made it to the deepest part, which reached his chest! We're going to keep bringing him near water, so hopefully by August and our beach trip, he'll be set =)

--This seems to be a "puppy" week for us... We've also been working on leash training with Powell now that the weather is nice. We brought him out on Saturday and then again last night, and he's already walking like a trained professional (hehehehe). He was completely heeled the entire time. The hubby and I were shocked. He's a good dog, but he's only 7 1/2 months old, so we don't expect miracles out of him, but he stayed with us the whole way. The only time he got "side-tracked" was when we'd reach grass and he'd want to sniff EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. But even then, he stayed with us. I'm very excited =)


Well, I think that about covers it for us. I can't think of anything else that's happened, though I'm sure I'm missing stuff. Oh well!

Added: I just came across this blog post from my friend Dana. She talks about the three and a half easy steps to getting your mojo back and keeping it. Check it out!

How was your week? Do you have nice weather where you are?

Monday, April 15

The Pursuit of Perfection


I seem to be in a bit of a philosophical mood of late. As I'm working through this draft of A Highlander's Ransom, I've been thinking a lot about what drives me... and what holds me back. It would surprise no one to learn that the need for perfection can be detrimental to a person's success, especially for a writer. We aren't just artists—we're creators. Our stories are our babies, and we want them to be just right.

But what happens when our incessant need to make the story perfect destroys our hopes of publication?  You could be an amazing writer, but if you never let go and move on, your talent could go undiscovered.

I’m not going to lie; I struggle with this every time I sit down at my laptop and open up my story. It’s no secret that I edit as I go. A lot of authors say it is a terrible habit to get into, but I can’t help but disagree. Everyone writes differently, so it would be foolish and naïve to assume the same rules apply to all of us. Of course, I do understand where they’re coming from. If something feels off to me, I can spend hours or days on one scene, desperately trying to fix it. In the end, it could be one little word that no one else would notice. Is it a bad thing that I spent all of that time on one section? Yes and no.

Yes, because I could move on and figure it out later. In the time it takes me to fix one paragraph, I could have written four pages. As well, the editing process can remove the writer from the flow of creative thoughts.

No, because in the end, my revision time is shorter compared to other people. Whereas they often have to go back and rewrite whole scenes from scratch, I’ve already done that. By the time I type THE END, the majority of my edits are already completed. As well, I’ve found that if I fix it right away, I avoid writing myself into a corner later on.

In the end, I think both tactics work. It’s truly up to you to decide which one works best for you. I’ve accepted the fact that my “first draft” takes longer to write, even though I envy those who can write a story in two weeks. Still, I need to work on loosening the reins a bit and letting my CPs step up to help me out. As the picture above says: Perfection: Success is the art of doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. No matter what, I need to keep that in mind.

What about you? Do you struggle to let go and move on? Have you found anything that helps you?

Friday, April 12

Finding (the right) Motivation



I'm not going to lie; sometimes I need a lot of motivation to get anything done around here. I know a lot of you are probably shocked by that, but it’s true. I’m freakishly organized and I’m a bit of a workaholic (okay, a lot of a workaholic), but I always need motivation to accomplish anything.

"Okay, if I finish this English essay, I get to watch last night's episode of Law and Order: SVU." Or, "If I read this chapter for Anthropology, I get to have two cookies!" And the most common recently: "If I work on this chapter and get to this spot right here, I can read a book, or watch a movie, or go to sleep..."

It is a never-ending cycle of bribery.

Unfortunately, the fear tactic has never really worked on me. Of course, if I had a giant ass shark swimming behind me while I blithely kayaked in the middle of nowhere, I think it would work…maybe. But when I have a figurative gun to my head, my "Murphy" comes to the fore and tells it to screw off (although the language is a bit more “R” rated than that, I'm afraid). That’s not to say I can’t meet deadlines, because let’s be honest, my OCD side loves deadlines. It just means I’m going to kick and scream and beat at the shark with my paddle rather than hightailing it out of there like any sane person would do.

This often leaves me with a bit of debacle. How can I motivate myself without using junk food, or TV, or anything else that would ensure I’m five hundred pounds by the age of forty?

I’m sad to say, a lot of my motivation over the years has been how to prove to _______ that I can do it (fill in the blank with anyone from friends to extended family, to snobby, arrogant creative writing teachers who think the romance genre is for lonely old women).

Ahem.

Last night I got a bit of a kick in the pants. I know I’ve been busy with surgeries, university, my Fiancé Visa, moving to another country, getting married, setting up a house, raising a puppy etc… but it makes me sad when I think of all the years I could have been writing but didn’t have the time. As my close family and friends can attest, I’m happiest when I’m off in my own little world, typing away on my keyboard.

I used to forget that fact, but no more. Regardless of how busy I get, I will keep writing. I am going to finish A Highlander’s Ransom this year, no matter how much of a shark-beating tantrum I throw. I may need help with this endeavor (keeping me motivated, not hitting the shark with my paddle… because, really, I’ve got that part down), so any suggestions you have would be much appreciated.

Have you ever struggled with motivation? How did you work through it? Do fear tactics work on you, or are you more of the "chips and dip" kinda writer (like me)?

Tuesday, April 9

TIMESPELL Contest Winners!



Yep, that's right. Everyone who entered is a winner! Yay! I will be sending you all stickers and bookmarks! However, the grand prize winner of the TIMESPELL ARC is....


COURTNEY RUSSELL!!!!


Thank you to those who entered! I wish I could send you all an ARC of Diana's book, but alas, I can't. I still highly recommend you check it out, though =)

*I used Random.org to generate the winner.

Friday, April 5

2013 Golden Claddagh Contest

~Permission to Forward Granted and Appreciated~

2013 Golden Claddagh Contest

CONTEST OPENS APRIL 1, 2013

Enter Celtic Hearts Romance Writers Chapter contest The Golden Claddagh! Don’t let our chapter name dissuade you; your entry does not have to be Celtic based to enter. We have four categories for unpublished manuscripts: Historical, FF&P, Contemporary, and Young Adult.

Our contest opens on April 1st with a final due date of May 1st, 2013. Finalists will be notified by June 15th, 2013 and winners announced at the Celtic Hearts AGM at RWA Nationals in Atlanta. All finalists will be invited to the AGM, if they are able to attend. 
ELIGIBILITY

The competition is open to RWA members and non-members. The Golden Claddagh Contest is open to published and non-published authors but the submitted work must never have been published in any format. The entry must be either a full-length novel (greater than 40,000 words) or a novella (no less than 20,000 words and no more than 40,000 words). Short stories and novelettes are not accepted. 
Entry fee is $15 for CHRW members and $25 for non-members.

CATEGORIES

CONTEMPORARY: Long & Short Contemporary / Romantic Suspense / Strong Romantic Elements: Includes single title, romantic suspense, long and short romantic fiction with a contemporary setting set after 1945. Main focus is the romantic relationship between the hero and heroine.

FF&P: Future, Fantasy & Paranormal / Steampunk / Alternative History: Romance novel where the mains focus is on the romantic relationship, but the future, fantasy or paranormal elements are integral to the story (includes time-travel).

HISTORICAL: Celtic: Romance novel set primarily before 1945 — any location.

YA: Young Adult / Middle Grade / New Adult: Romance novels or novellas in which young adult themes constitute an integral part of the plot. Main focus is still on the romantic relationship between the hero and heroine. 
FINAL ROUND JUDGES

Contemporary – Julie Mianecki of Penguin Books, Chelsey Emmelhainz of Harper Collins Publishing

FF&P – Alissa Davis of Carina Press and Laurie McLean of Foreward Literary Agency

Historical – Meredith Giordan of Carina Press and Susie Townsend of New Leaf Literary Agency

Young Adult – Aubrey Poole of Sourcebooks and Becky Vinter of Fine Print Literary Agency

Find the Contest Entry Form and Rules at Celtic Hearts Romance Writers website or blogsite. Sign up today! You know you want to. So what are you waiting for? 
~Permission to Forward Granted and Appreciated~

As I've said before, I'm the YA Coordinator for this year, so if you have any questions, you can email me at nataliemurphy@live.ca =)

Wednesday, April 3

Update: Week 13

With the recent holiday, this has been a bit of a slow week for me. I spent a lot of time with my in-laws and my husband's extended family. I attempted to do work while visiting with everyone, but you know how that goes. Far too much noise to do anything productive.

Writing:

--I finally finished chapter four! I already sent it to my Alpha, and she only had a few small suggestions, which I immediately fixed. I'm also halfway through chapter five, but then Easter happened and I've been busy ever since. I'm really hoping to get a lot done today, if not finish the chapter completely!

--I only read one book last week, which brings my total up to 19.

--The Golden Claddagh contest hosted by my Celtic Hearts RWA chapter officially started on Monday. As I said last week, I'm the YA Coordinator this year. So far, I haven't had to do anything since I haven't received a single entry! So if you write Young Adult fiction and have a completed manuscript ready to go, you should enter! The odds are in your favor =)*

--I am hosting a contest on my blog to give away an ARC of Diana Paz's TIMESPELL! Only two people have entered so far, so go go go!

Personal:

--Like I said, I've been very busy with Easter festivities. We spent five days with the extended family, so not much else was accomplished lol.

--We worked on our taxes this weekend. Unfortunately, since I'm here on a Fiance Visa and am waiting on my Green Card (Permanent Resident Card), taxes are even less fun for us. After running around to both the SSA office and the IRS office yesterday, we think we finally know what to do. Then once we file here in the States, I get to move on to filing back home in Canada. Yay...

So what have you been up to this week? Did you have a nice Easter?

*No, your manuscript does NOT need to be Celtic in nature. 

Monday, April 1

TIMESPELL by Diana Paz & a Contest!!!!!!!!!!




Today's the day!!!!!!!!!! *runs around screaming with flailing muppet arms* TIMESPELL by the lovely Diana Paz is out today! I can't believe this day is already here! It feels like the time (hah, pun intended) has flown by. I read the first chapter of TIMESPELL on June 4, 2010 (yes, I went and checked). I loved it then and nothing has changed. Beautifully written, TIMESPELL will sweep you away.

Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Julia Corona is a Daughter of Fate, destined to travel through time to battle the creatures of Mythos who seek to change history. Julia would rather use her powers to ditch PE than fulfill her duties as the Daughter of Present, but her best friend Angie, the Daughter of Past, can’t stand the thought of their magic fading away, which is what will happen if they can’t find the third Daughter soon. Then they discover the Daughter of Future is Kaitlyn, the bullying bad girl who tried to steal Angie’s boyfriend. Suddenly a world ruled by demons doesn’t seem so bad compared to being magically bound to Kaitlyn for the rest of their lives.

Julia is ready to kiss the magic goodbye until she meets Ethan, an intense young man who claims to be her protector and seems to know Julia better than she knows herself. He looks at her with a strange mix of longing and resentment that Julia can’t explain. Before she gets a chance to solve the mystery, the creatures of Mythos strike, opening a portal in Revolutionary France. The Daughters of Fate must set aside their differences and band together with Ethan to travel back in time to close the portal, but someone close to them will betray them, making their task nearly impossible. The history books are changing, and it may already be too late.

About the Author:

Diana Paz writes books about magic, adventure, and romance. She was born in Costa Rica, grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she’s a beach bum. Diana graduated from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a highly sweetened iced coffee. Find her at her blog:dianapazwrites.blogspot.com or on Twitter @dianapazwrites.


Diana, I am so happy for you. You are a fantastic writer and an even better friend (which is saying something)! You deserve every success. I love you and I'm so proud of you. xoxoxo


CONTEST!



Okay guys, I know the book came out today, but I have a lovely ARC to give to one lucky commenter, as well as stickers and bookmarks! All you have to do is comment on this post with your name and email address to be entered to win =) I will leave it open for a week and then announce the winner on April 9th.*

*For US and Canada only. Sorry!
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